Enticing exteriors

June 27th, 2015 1:31 am

First Posted: 4/17/2013

Two more downtown Pittston buildings are getting a facelift.

Thanks to a new round of façade grants, the Brunelle Building on North Main Street and the Virginia DeSpritio Hair Fashions/Advance Beauty Supply building on South Main Street will get new looks.

The grants are funded through the state Local Share Assessment program which uses revenues from casinos, said Pittston Redevelopment Authority member Mike Lombardo.

Grants are typically $1,500 and must be matched, dollar for dollar, by the business or building owner.

The applications are handled through Downtown Manager Rose Randazzo and awarded through the Design Review Committee, an arm of the redevelopment authority. The committee approved the new round of grants last week.

A business incubator with secretarial and support staff for several small offices is set for the first floor of Brunelle. It is currently vacant, but had residential units on the floors above it at one time.

DeSpirito plans to move her businesses nearer to the back of the building and the front would be available for rental. Lombardo said there are several businesses looking into locating there, but that decision would be DeSpirito’s.

Lombardo said the plan is to put $100,000 a year of grant money into improvements with $85,000 going to facades and $15,000 to signs.

More than 10 businesses have taken advantage of the program. Recent façade grants were awarded to Napoli Pizza, Pittston Dental, Sabatelle’s, Fuji, the Red Mill tavern and Lizza’s Mezzo Mezzo.

He stressed the Red Mill and Lizza’s really define the Main Street Corridor on both ends of town. Sapphire Salon and Rock Street Music buildings are in the application process, he said.

Lombardo said the improvements could be as complex as necessary, ranging from a completely new front, like the Red Mill, to a new coat of paint, like Sabatelle’s.

In order to be approved for a façade grant, the building must be up to date on garbage and sewer fees and current on taxes.

Lombardo said a lot of downtown businesses have weathered economic storms and a formerly lackluster downtown in the past.

“New businesses are great, but we need to take care of our mainstays as well,” he said.

He said nobody sets out to have an unattractive business, but, in tougher economic times, “you may have to decide that you need flour for dough rather than paint for the front of the building.”

The LSA account was established by the Pennsylvania Horse Race and Gaming Development Act and distributes cash generated by licensed gaming facilities operating in the state, including Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Plains Township, to local community and economic improvement projects.

“We’re really trying to maximize the potential of the businesses,” Lombardo said.